More defiance and invalid baptisms at St. Mary’s, Brisbane

An Australian blogger, Sentire cvm Ecclesia, alerted me to a distressing story.

You will remember that in the Diocese of Brisbane, Australia, there was a terrible… and I mean terrible… problem of invalid baptisms being performed by priests who were using an invalid form.  Instead of using the proper and valid "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (while pour the water), they were saying something like "in the name of the Creater, Redeemer and Sanctifier", or some such invalid nonsense. 

WDTPRS looked at this here.

The Holy See intervened and the local bishop at last intervened to put this to a stop.

Now we get this story from The Australian. The writer the biographer of Card. Pell.  My emphases and comments.


Brisbane church defies Pope on baptism

Tess Livingston, October 2, 2008

DESPITE four years of pressure from Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby and a recent Vatican crackdown on invalid baptisms, the controversial St Mary’s South Brisbane has again defied church authorities.

A recent baptism, captured on video and dated September 21, has been posted on the YouTube internet site.  [It has since been made "private".  Sentire cvm Ecclesia wrote that the video has been made available to Church authorities.]

The clip shows resident priest Terry Fitzpatrick baptising a young child with the words, "We baptise you in the name of the creator, sustainer and liberator of life", adding "who is also father, son and spirit"[Sorry, Father.  That’s invalid.]

The priest then added: "That’s good, nice and cool" and invited "everyone to put water on him".  [Groovy!]

The Australian put several questions to Father Fitzpatrick yesterday but he declined to comment.  [What is there to say?  How about, "I regret my terrible mistake.  I apologize and I will never do that again.  From now on I won’t be stupid and defy the Church in the matter of validity of the foundational sacrament Jesus instituted for our salvation.]

Catholic commentator and editor of Annals magazine, Paul Stenhouse, said he doubted the baptism was valid "because the form of the Sacrament cannot be varied".

"It sounds like green theology to me," Father Stenhouse said. [Good catch.]

The legitimate form of baptism is: "I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

The two priests at St Mary’s, Father Fitzpatrick and Peter Kennedy, were ordered to revert to the correct form of baptism in 2004 after it emerged that hundreds of children had been baptised using the wrong formula.

In March, a statement released with approval from the Pope outlawed baptisms being conferred with the words "I baptise you in the name of the creator, and of the redeemer, and of the sanctifier" or "I baptise you in the name of the creator, and of the liberator, and of the sustainer"[That can be found here.]

The fresh controversy has emerged after Archbishop Bathersby wrote to St Mary’s in August warning that the church could be closed down "by practices that separate it from communion with the Roman Catholic Church".

The letter was prompted by complaints to the Vatican about a Buddhist statue in the church.

Three Vatican Congregations — for bishops, clergy and worship and the sacraments — asked the Archbishop to act.

The St Mary’s community, which includes a significant number of Catholic teachers and school principals, has been meeting to consider its position[I could help them with that.  I think the Archbishop there is going to help them with that very soon.]

St Mary’s has sparked controversy for years because of its own Eucharistic prayer, which is said by the congregation as well as the priest, its elimination of important sections of the mass, its occasional substitution of other material for scriptural readings, and its female and non-Catholic preachers[Sounds like a great place, huh?]

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Brisbane said: "Once those with liturgical expertise have had an opportunity to view the YouTube link/footage and discuss it with others, they will be able to provide some advice to the Archbishop as to the validity."

What did the Holy See issue about the form of baptism they were… um.. are using at that parish?   There was a response by the CDF to a dubium.


on the validity of Baptism conferred with the formulas
«I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier»
and «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer»


First question: Whether the Baptism conferred with the formulas «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier» and «I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer» is valid?

Second question: Whether the persons baptized with those formulas have to be baptized in forma absoluta?


To the first question: Negative.

To the second question: Affirmative.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these Responses, adopted in the Ordinary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, February 1, 2008.

William Cardinal Levada

 + Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila

[00327-02.01] [Original text: Latin] 


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Paul Stokell says:

    “Green theology?” At least the Paulists in Boston that got busted for this practice in the ’90’s were up front about it, claiming to “be pastoral to women.” (How about being “pastoral” to the baptizandi, guys?)

  2. TJM says:

    Sounds like suspension time to me. I think they’ve left the Archbishop with no choice. It’s really sad, that a priest’s “feelings” about
    an issue are more important than the substance of the issue. Very sad. Tom

  3. The invalid baptisms are terrible, yes, but this also calls into question the priest’s intention with regard to the other sacraments. What about the Eucharist ? Does he intend to “do what the Church does” ? From the sound of things, it seems doubtful.

  4. Brian Walden says:

    How can you mess with a person’s soul like that? That’s seriously evil to tell parents you’re baptizing their child and then not doing it because you have a wacky modern agenda to push.

  5. Baron Korf says:

    With Catholics like that, who needs protestants?

  6. Aelric says:

    “Consider its position”? GPS indicates that they are smack in the middle of the “affirming catholic” block of the Anglican Communion.

  7. Dan says:

    A bit off topic but, I have always found it confusing that, if the correct form and matter is used for the sacrament of penance by the FSSPX, it is considered an invalid sacrament.

    Yet if the FSSPX uses the correct form and matter for confecting the Blessed Sacrament and baptising, then this is valid.

    If all this Brisbane priest has to do is use the correct form and matter for this Sacrament of the Dead, why, by analogy is the FSSPX priest not allowed to absolve sins with the correct form and matter.

    They are both ordained and consecrated priests, why not?

  8. Warren says:

    Goofy, mixed up folk down yonder. It’s bad enough the priest is mixed up. What about all the laity who appear to have acquiesced to this priest’s bogus charms? Assuming there is a baptismal preparation course at this parish, are the parents/godparents/sponsors so poorly formed in the Faith so as to ignore the obvious abuse taking place? A quick read of the Compendium of the Catechism [Compendium 260; CCC 1256, 1284] should be enough for a start.

  9. Mike says:


    Recently a mass at our parish, Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford, NY, had Rev. Charles Curran as presider. He used the “creator, redeemer, sanctifier” language throughout in the liturgy. When I mentioned my concern about this to some of my fellow parishioners, most of them said “it’s just words.”

    I was appalled by this cavalier approach to the liturgy by both presider and congregation. It seems that all too many Catholics have a) forgotten their Catechism, b) decided it was passe in the wake of Vatican II (as promulgated by those like Rev. Curran), or c) never received proper catechesis.

    Pray for us.

  10. Massachusetts Catholic says:


    Write your bishop with specifics of the Curran Mass. Add the names of any witnesses who would be willing to back you up. Include any news reports, bulletin letters, etc. that give any information on the service. Do it as soon as you can.

  11. Scott says:

    I filmed the video in question.

    The video has *not* yet been made available to church authorities. At least, it hasn’t unless someone was able to download it from YouTube before I removed it from public viewing.

    I hope to send the original video to the appropriate authorities, but so far I don’t know who those authorities are or at least what the correct address is. I did email the Brisbane diocese about it, but received no response.

    If anyone call tell me where I ought to mail the video, I’d appreciate it.


    ps- Father Z., I emailed you about this the day I filmed it, but you must have missed my mail. ;)

  12. Scott: I did miss it. However, if you send it to me, I can get it directly to a friend in the CDF.

  13. Memphis Aggie says:

    Why hasn\’t the Archbishop done something already? Maybe he is but it\’s behind the scenes. I\’ll try to be patient.


    Valid confessions requires valid priests while valid Baptisms only require form and matter and can be performed by laity if absolutely needed (like in ICUs with fragile infants).

  14. Howard says:

    “Sounds like suspension time to me.” Suspension? For cryin’ out loud, the priests should be both suspended and excommunicated; what more could they do to place themselves outside the Church? And the suspensions should be maintained even if they repent. Too much damage has been done for them to be trusted again with the care of souls. I had thought this problem was fixed back in 2004….

  15. Scott says:

    Father Z., I’m emailed you.
    pax, Scott

  16. Bob says:

    The Archbishop should send those priests to a cloistered monastery where they can spend the rest of their life doing penance and can’t do any more damage.

  17. Dan says:

    “Valid confessions requires valid priests”

    Memphis Aggie:

    The FSSPX are valid priests.

  18. TJM says:

    Howard, I am not a canonist but suspension seems an appropriate first step in the hopes of bringing them into obedience. Tom

  19. Memphis Aggie says:


    A valid priest could have his right to hear confessions suspended for disciplinary reasons, else I don’t know the answer to your question. Who says that FSSPX confessions are invalid? If the Authority is Papal then they are invalid. I think this is a bit of a “rabbit hole” to use Father Z’s term.

  20. Dan,

    The ability to hear (valid) confessions requires the grant of jurisdiction from a diocesan bishop or the equivalent. Because the three SSPX bishops do not themselves have the jurisdiction of an Ordinary, they can’t grant it to anyone else.

    Validity of a sacrament requires the correct formula (so sadly lacking in Brisbane), matter (ie water for baptism), qualified recipient (ie for confirmation a baptised catholic; for holy orders a male baptised catholic), a proper minister, and intention. Who is qualified to be a the minister of the sacrament depends on the particular sacrament – the rules are different for each one (ie anyone for baptism; priest for Eucharist; priest with faculties for confession).

  21. Scott: Got it and I responded.

  22. Margaret says:

    Perhaps this is a silly question, but have all these parents been living under a rock? Surely this matter has generated some public discussion and contraversy around Brisbane. I have a hard time understanding a mother or father making arrangements to have a baby baptized in a specifically notorious parish like that without explicit assurance by the priest that such reprobate practices had ended and that the baptism would be done by the book. Clearly the priests are horribly, sinfully culpable in this, but unless the parents don’t speak the language and have zero catechesis, surely they carry some responsibility as well to see their child baptized validly.

  23. Scott W. says:

    Am I the only one convinced that even if Fr. Z. made a post about Lance Berkman’s batting average, somehow the combox would turn into an SSPX debate?

  24. Animadversor says:

    Does not everyone understand that this is all about Father Fitzpatrick and how “good, nice and cool” he is? And I suppose how “good, nice and cool” the congregation is, too.

  25. gerrit blydorp says:

    This is a very sad and disturbing story. If at least since 2004 this matter of invalid baptisms were known and totally invalid eucharistic prayers were/are used in this parish then I think the good Archbishop of Brisbane has been totally derelict in his duties. I would think that, even in the Newchurch, at some point in those four years the boom would have been lowered and those two priest been suspended. They, and the parishioners there who countenance these grave abuses are a scandal to the Church Universal. Again why is it that it has been four years so far and nothing has been done by the Archbishop except some handwringing and since August some silly mumblings to please refrain and be good boys. What a sad joke this matter is and how sad that a successor to the Apostles obviously is not interested in upholding Church teaching and law. I hope and pray for the people in Brisbane that this so called “Shepherd” is very close to retirement and that the Holy See will correct what needs to be corrected post haste. This scandal to the F How very sad.

  26. gerrit blydorp says:

    Soory last sentence above should read; This scandal to the faith should be removed immediatelt

  27. HGB says:

    There may be systemic issues involved here. I stumbled across the priests page of the Deanery St Marys is in and not one priest was in clerical attire.

  28. Dan, Australiaincognita has correctly explained by absolution by SSPX priests is invalid. Absolution requires faculties from an ordinary with jurisdiction–their bishops do not have jurisdiction.

    As to marriage, it is invalid because NO priest can witness a marriage on his own. He must have delegation from the territorial pastor where the marriage takes place, or from the local ordinary, or be a legitimately installed pastor himself. SSPX priests do not fulfil these requirements.

  29. Rev. Dr. Mike says:

    the question has been answered by Rome for the good priest use of different words.

    I wonder about the “role of intent of the priest” wonder why the intent was not considered?

    But more important now for me: words used during a latin Mass, if the words spoken in latin are SO far from any recognize, understandable version of latin; the person hearing the words spoken to understand or translate back into the latin? is the Mass valid.

    In other words, if the priest mis-sounds out the latin to render the words spoken to mean other than intented words as written in the book is the Mass valid?

  30. Thomas says:

    At the risk of being offensive, I find this even more deplorable than those homosexual perverts in the priesthood who preyed on youngsters. Vile men giving in to vile disorder.

    These deliberately invalid baptisms are even more destructive, if that’s possible. These priests know what they’re doing is condemned by the Church as invalid, and yet they wilfully continue to jeopardize not body and psychology, but the soul itself.

    If I were ever present for one of these baptisms it would take all my will power, and the help of God, not to haul off and deck the offender, instead of merely thrashing him verbally.

  31. Howard says:

    TJM: Suspension might have been a reasonable 1st step in 2004, when the invalid baptisms first came to the bishops attention after some concerned grandparents asked him about them. It turns out that the phony baptisms had been going on for a decade. The bishop said at the time that that parish would have to seriously consider whether it wished to remain Catholic. By now, I think the willingness of the priests to obey has already been tested. I’m not a canonist either, but I’m sure the bishop could give them a deadline to both stop the phony baptisms and publicly renounce their actions, or else they would be excommunicated. If the bishop doesn’t have that much authority, he really has none.

    I have to agree that the parents share some of the blame — there’s no excuse for a Catholic not knowing the bare basics of the Catholic Faith. The bishop shares the blame if he has allowed this to continue for 4 years, as it seems he has.

    I remember this story particularly well because it came out shortly before I had a bad experience at the Catholic parish in Paris, TX. The priest in the Confessional (who may or may not have been the pastor; I’m not sure) substituted “may you be absolved” for “I absolve you”. I was uncomfortable with that wording from the beginning — knowing that the words are important and that the two phrases do NOT mean the same thing — and I was later told this formula is invalid. I wrote the bishop of the Tyler diocese about this, but I never heard back.

  32. Jane says:

    It is time for the Archbishop of Brisbane to suspend the two priests from St Marys Parish and to close down the parish.

    I took my summer holidays on the north coast of NSW for a month this year. The parishes that I attended were strange, but not as strange as St Marys, South Brisbane.

    There are some good parishes in Australia and many that are oddball.

  33. Brendan Downunder says:

    The abuses at St Mary’s, South Brisbane have been going on for at least fifteen years that I know of. (I’m a lifelong resident of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.) The timing of the Archbishop’s intervention is especially noteworthy – coming just a month or so after the Papal visit to Australia for WYD. If it weren’t for that, I rather suspect it would have been business as usual. Take it from me, please don’t expect anything too heroically Catholic from His Grace.

  34. Kevin A. says:

    I don’t think people understand the damage that this kind of liturgical abuse (well, in this case I don’t know if abuse fully captures the essence of what’s happening- it’s more like liturgical slaughter) does to the Church. I’ve seen it time and again- in places where the liturgy is celebrated reverently and correctly, vocations thrive. Where it is more about being “inclusive” and trying to be creative, vocations die. I myself was a candidate for the OFM’s but left because I was appalled by the liturgical abuses.

  35. David2 says:

    Here’s the link to the Archbishop’s August letter:

    The extent of the problems in this parish is such that many people have had cause to wonder why His Grace has acted with all the speed of a tortoise on Valliuum. The salvation of souls is at stake here, and it seems to many observers that His Grace has hitherto stuck to gentle admonitions – which have been comprehensively ignored.

    Can anyone honestly say that this would be allowed to develop to such an extent in an Archdiocese under , say Bp Bruskewitz, or Abp Burke, or Cardinal Pell? His Grace will be retiring in a few years time. Pray for him, and for the Holy Father, that he may chose an orthodox and worthy successor.

  36. David2 says:

    It seems that the St Mary’s folks doubt the divinity of Christ (cf the Abp’s letter linked to above); in which case they are already apostates from the faith. Again, why the delays?

  37. TerryC says:

    I guess I’m just an ignorant member of the laity but doesn’t the Archdiocese of Brisbane own St. Mary’s? Why is this a matter of closing the Church? Are vocations so bad in Australia that the Archbishop can’t simply appoint another pastor, send Fr, Kennedy off for a nice little decade long retreat somewhere, ask the Bishop of Toowoomba to recall Fr. Fitzpatrick, and failing that remove his facilities in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Somehow it doesn’t seem like rocket science to me, or even international diplomacy. Just a matter of pastoral governance.
    The Archbishop’s letter seems strong, but four years have prove that it was just words. Time to take action Your Lordship.

  38. Richard says:

    “The St Mary’s community, which includes a significant number of Catholic teachers and school principals”

    No wonder the teaching of the Faith is so bad.

  39. ranchocazzo says:

    Why all the fuss over this… this is all very petty and small, almost like school children ratting on someone… St. Mary’s is a community of faith of which we should be proud and supporitive. With all of the challenges facing our world, let us turn our attention to the Darfur, global warming, the inequity between rich and poor, poverty, illness and HIV. To be quibbling over words and gestures used in worship – should we all not be looking at the big picture… This is what matters – and where our faith should lead us to lift our fellow men and women up so that all may lead lives of dignity.

  40. Jordanes says:

    Ranchocazzo, insisting that baptisms be celebrated in accordance with the commandment of Jesus is not “quibbling over words and gestures used in worship. We should be looking at the big picture, and recall that if all the challenges facing our world were resolved (not that that can ever happen), but no one on earth was baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it would be all for nothing. What profit is it if a man feed the whole world but forfeit his soul? This parish has shamed itself and the Church. Pray that it repents of its infidelity to Christ.

  41. pdt says:

    Thank you for posting the link to the letter, David2. It does sound as though the Archbishop is moving unnecessarily slow, but I don’t know all of the politics involved and can only pray he moves decisively.

    Perhaps the most telling sentence in the letter is:

    From the time of St Peter and Judas the Church has never disowned its humanity.

    I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist or canon lawyer to figure out to whom the archbishop is referring!

  42. ranchocazzo says:

    Thank you, Jordanes, for your comments. I would only quote the Archbishop who acknowledges the immense good for society which has come from St. Mary’s parish. They are bringing light into the world. Would you take that light away and return to darkness because the “proper” words were not used or “authorized” rubrics not performed. Jesus did not deliver his message or his sacraments for an elite few (in fact, he argued with the Scribes and Pharisees), but rather hung out with prostitutes, the sick, the downtrodden and homeless, the fringe of society. Where God is worshipped and all men and women are welcomed in a church that is doing good for society, give praise to God. You are petty, elitist, and spiteful to attack the parish of St. Mary’s over these issues. Put your microscopes back in the closet, get a life and take a look at what is really happening in our world.

  43. Jordanes says:

    I would only quote the Archbishop who acknowledges the immense good for society which has come from St. Mary’s parish. They are bringing light into the world.

    Has come, and have brought. But they’re extinguishing their light and doing immense harm to society by their departure from the faith.

    Would you take that light away and return to darkness because the “proper” words were not used or “authorized” rubrics not performed.

    I would not take that light away, but Jesus will, as He warned the Ephesians in the Apocalypse, unless they repent of their heresy, blasphemy and presumption. Expressing disapproval from their crimes is not returning to darkness: we have the Light of Life, and don’t depend on that parish for it.

    Jesus did not deliver his message or his sacraments for an elite few (in fact, he argued with the Scribes and Pharisees), but rather hung out with prostitutes, the sick, the downtrodden and homeless, the fringe of society.

    He didn’t deliver His message or His sacraments for them to be twisted and rewritten either.

    Where God is worshipped and all men and women are welcomed in a church that is doing good for society, give praise to God.

    God is not worshipped when people are invalidly baptised in the name of someone or something other than the Three Divine Persons whom Jesus revealed to His Church. There is nothing praiseworthy about what they have done.

    You are petty, elitist, and spiteful to attack the parish of St. Mary’s over these issues.

    No, we’re just faithful Catholics, obedient to the Lord of heaven and earth. We take seriously the things that Jesus tells us to do, and we know that we have no right to depart from what He teaches and what He commands.

    Put your microscopes back in the closet, get a life and take a look at what is really happening in our world.

    We can see very clearly what is happening with the unaided eye: people with a right to the graces of Baptism are being denied them by those who arrogate to themselves the authority to invent new, non-Christian rites.

    Thank you for your concern, Ranchocazzo, but you don’t seem to be a Catholic, in which case I would say this is a matter of grave concern to the Catholic Church, and we don’t expect you to understand. But if you are a Catholic, I will pray for you and urge you to inform yourself of the teachings of the Church and the reasons She teaches what She does.

  44. ranchocazzo says:

    Yes, Jordanes, I am catholic and accepting of all humankind and their good accomplishments. I am not condemning those who don’t say the prayers the same way I do or perform the ceremonies the exact same way. I only wish we had more parishes like St. Mary’s where the spirit is alive and participation by the faithful in the parish is overwhelming!

  45. Veronica says:

    Does anyone know the words that John the Baptist used when baptising Jesus?

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